Update

Hey Folks!

I just wanted to take a minute to say that I will be dropping regularly scheduled book reviews from by blog.

Truth is I have recently started a new job and blog. Add my flash fics and ongoing creative writing projects and I feel a bit over extended on my reading/reviewing schedule. I’ll still post reviews every now and then, but I’m needing to step back from the previous commitment I made to a schedule.

But don’t worry- the flash fics will still be dropping every Friday… and I know that’s what you are all here for anyway!

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The Continental: Le Vice Anglais, deuxième partie

“Darling? Oh, Mon Amour, do you really want to start with that after how we parted ways?” His words dripped with sardonic amusement. Apparently he was still upset about how we left things.

And by ‘how we left things’ I must confess it means that he found me in bed with his sister. Truth is that I was not interested in either of them. That base need is not what drives me. I used him, both of them, actually. I needed their network to smuggle the device out here to the frontier to keep it safe. But when things ended the way they did the device was sacrificed on the altar of my own mortality. I only hoped they did not know what they had.

“I have been looking for you, Darling, I brought you a gift.” I said in a sweetly submissive way that made my soul cringe.

“Yes, my associate, Oscar, told me all about your meeting in the alley. If it is any consolation, you would have found your way into your current…” he paused and continued, “situation without Oscar’s help. He always did have a penchant for mellow drama. “You no doubt were ignorant of the fact that I now own the Crystal Pistol.”

Shit! I knew that organ playing Stephen-Stinking-Foster sounded familiar. “So you are a purveyor of flesh now in addition to an importer of refined coca. Congratulations.” I made my words sound believable and choked down the revulsion. Some level of my mind was sickeningly astonished at how well I had become at lying and a debate began between the splintered parts of what was left of my conscience if the sacrifices I have made, and will make, will be worth it in the end.

“Smuggling is smuggling,” he said with a shrug. “It is only right that a human life is worth more than powder.”

“Slavery has been outlawed for forty years.” I said with a passion I should have kept hidden.

“Did I speak of slavery? My business is helping people. Some people I help by funding their journey to The New World, and others I help by finding inexpensive labor.”

“So the workers in these brothels and mines can leave whenever they wish?” Careful Grant, some part of my mind chided me and was quickly silenced by the majority of my splinters.

“Well, the workers need to pay their freight somehow, but let’s use your language, Mon Amour. The laws passed in Europe outlawing slavery are somewhat ambiguous about the legal status in the colonies. Consider also that this territory is claimed by The Hapsburgs, The Hanovers, The Bourbons-In-Exile and even your malcontented terrorist friends – law here is an illusion. Anarchy is the ruling House and I am their steward.”

Somewhere in the near distance I heard a heavy wood door swing open on iron hinges that were in bad need of oil. Heavy, booted footfalls stumbled drunkenly down a flight of stairs, followed by a lighter and more sure-footed pair.

“Sosaye canna maker scream bloody murder?!” A familiar voice slurred drunkenly.

“What ever your wicked heart desires, Mr. Hobbes. As far as that you do not kill her,” Oscar answered.

“An’ ifenaye do?”

“There is an extra fee that I dare say you could not afford, Mr. Hobbes. Believe me when I tell you that you do not want to become acquainted with our methods of collection.”

“Ah- your companion approaches. This will prove most entertaining for me, Mon Amour!” His words were soft but his sadistic pleasure was palatable.

Silas, part III

The phone rang again.

“What the Hell is it now, Pike?” I asked after hitting the speaker button.

“Uh, Silas-“ the voice was uncharacteristically unsure of itself and continued with a trepidation I could sense over the phone. “This is Bob at the bank. How are you?”

“I’m fine, Mr. Darien,” I said forcing myself back to calm, then setting down my pen and raising the receiver to continue the call. Robert Darien was the president of the only bank in Ramhurst, married to the richest woman in the county and trustee of the Barrington estate. He was perhaps a man even more powerful than I, at least in normal measures.

“Glad to hear it. I’m looking at this morning’s headline. There has been another murder. Are you going to charge Artemis Barrington with it?” I could hear the excitement in the phony electronic mimic of his voice.

“The deaths aren’t murders, they are bear attacks.” I replied.

“Horse shit! Black bears are not aggressive. And the bite radius is all wrong in the photos.”

“Where did you see photos of the bodies?”

“You aren’t the only cop I know, Silas.”

“It was a bear.”

“I don’t believe you. Now answer the question, is Artemis going to be charged for murder in both deaths.”

“It was a bear attack. Are you telling me Artemis can slip her skin and become a bear?”

“Do not mock me, Chief Whittle.” Darien said, but I wasn’t mocking him. That was exactly the type of lead I needed.

“The evidence doesn’t support charging her, it was a bear attack.”

“That didn’t stop you from charging her in the murder or Officer Diaz.”

“The charge was made before all the facts were in and subsequently dropped. Officer Diaz’s death was not a murder, it was-“

“A bear attack, right. I get it. Anyway, Silas, I was hoping you could help me find Artemis. We need to discuss her grandfather’s estate and no one has seen her since you two…” Darien stopped himself and changed tact’s, “since you released her. Do you know where she is?”

“I have no idea where your niece is, Bob. She left with her lawyer, so I’d suggest contacting her,” I consulted my notes and continued, “she is with a firm out of Atlanta and her name is Safi-“

“Al’Ahmari,” Darien interrupted. “Yes, I know her. But I’d rather Ms. Al’Ahmari didn’t know I wanted to meet with Artemis.” That confirmed my suspicion, he wants to strong arm her into selling her share of the company. He probably will invoke some morality clause and point out her recent detainment. No wonder he wanted me to charge her. It bothered me he would do that to her, but I pushed that feeling away. Artemis was not my problem anymore.

“Sorry, Bob, it looks like you have no other choice. So, do you need the lawyer’s number?”

“No- I’m sure I have it in a file somewhere,” Darien said in a frustrated tone, “thanks for nothing.” The call was ended the same way that Pike ended his. For a split second I was amused by the thought that youngsters will never know the satisfaction of slamming a phone receiver down when they are angry with the caller.

“Thank you, Bob,” I said to the empty office. Artemis was the loose end in Eddie’s death. Could I connect her to the poacher? How did I not consciously realize what she was before now?

The Continental: Le Vice Anglais

Camptown Ladies

Sing this song

Do-dah Do-dah!

Camptown Races

Five Miles Long

Oh Do-dah day!

Anything by Foster is an unpleasant sound.

Even more so when you wake to it.

Even more so when you wake to it with a splitting headache.

My vision was blurry, but my ears were working all too well. As I heard the drunken voices belting out the song accompanied by pipe organ I could tell that the singers were close by, but at least one layer of timber muffled them to my extreme delight. As predicted, all of the revelers put their money on the bob-tailed nag, and I found myself wondering, as always, what kind of odds were being offered on the bay.

I was lying prostrate on a stone floor with my arms bound at wrist and elbow behind my back causing an uncomfortable strain on my shoulders. My ankles were similarly bound together and my legs bent at the knee so that my ankles and wrist met each other in what felt to my fingers to be a lovers’ knot. I assumed that I would have been relieved of my revolver and rapier, naturally. But the cold stone on my skin told me I had also been relieved of vest, shirt and trousers. This was a surprise to say the least about it.

The air was humid- warm and moist. The type of environment that absorbs smells and mellows them as they meld into their surroundings. The first scent that I recognized was leather followed by iron and oil. After that was the effeminate musk that suggested estrus and escapades accompanied by its masculine counterpart. I had heard of rooms like this, and an unindulged part of me had always wanted to visit one. Though I admit that I had conflicting feelings about regaining consciousness inside one.

As my vision grew steadily more clear I realized that I was behind a row of iron bars with a door of the same style set into them; much like a prison cell. I turned my head around to survey what I could of my surroundings to find that I was in a recess of stone that had been chiseled out of the Earth, and no doubt in some part of the sprawling city under the city that had long since surrendered its share of silver.

I was beginning to weigh my options when I heard his voice. “Awake at last, Mon Amour.” His tone was husky and almost sensuous as everything in that lilied tongue sounds. The way he spoke was as he always had with hints of hatred and unspoken threats. It was the man I had been seeking, and the familiarity of the words should have given me some comfort. But given my current situation the affect that they had was to produce a gleam of nervous sweat on the entirety of my nearly nude body.

“I’m so glad I found you, Darling.”

Silas, part II

Two weeks had passed since Pike had given me the ominous warning. Yet still, the words played in a constant loop in my thoughts. Haunting every wakened, and many unawakened, moments of my existence.

Get a handle on this shit or someone else will!

Eddie’s autopsy said his death was the result of a bear attack, which was a believable explanation if you ignored crucial facts. But with Eddie having no family in the area there would be nobody would ask those difficult questions. At least, not anytime soon.

Get a handle on this shit– Pike had said. Easy for him to say, not being the one on the front lines having to handle shit. The office had made that one soft- he was out of touch with what it takes to operate a territory these days. Did that arrogant little prick think I didn’t understand how serious this was? No less serious than last time. But last time there wasn’t an archive and recorder in everyone’s pocket. Things were so much easier to keep quiet when all you needed was an ‘accidental’ fire in the local library or County Clerks’ Office. I knew that things were about to go from bad to worse. Because my problem may go decades without killing- but once it tasted blood, one killing was never enough.

So it came as absolutely no surprise when news of the second death, a poacher- hunting out of season and on the Appalachian Trail- turned up dead. The crime lab confirmed it was the same beast that killed Eddie. At least the bear narrative would be an easy sell this time.

But time was running out for me, and the powers that be couldn’t let this keep happening. It was only a matter of time before someone started Googling things and connecting dots. Their theory would probably have no resemblance to the truth, but that was of little consolation. Their version of the facts would most assuredly have something to do with reptilian space aliens with phase technology. And while the absurdity of the thought made me smile, stories like that would only make things worse.

Get a handle on this shit or someone else will- I told myself. The phone on my desk rang. I picked up the receiver without bothering to look at the caller ID. Few have this number, fewer still use it.

“Well?” The voice on the line said.

“I told you I would tell you once he was dead.”

“Tick tock, Whittle, tick tock”, Pike said in a tone that implied he wasn’t as upset about my predicament as he should have been.

“I’m working on it,” I said in an angry, past the point of being able to put up with his bullshit, tone. “Guys like this don’t exactly advertise who they are. And I still have to pretend their is normal law here, so I just can’t start executing people on suspicion. Now can I?”

“Two deaths on your turf- two strikes. Three strikes and you’re out, Whittle.”

“Are you really going to apply an arbitrary rule and its accompanying sports analogy to this? This is serious.”

“You’re telling me this is serious, Whittle! Get your head out of your ass and do your fucking job!” The call was disconnected with the sound of a loud slamming noise. I let out a frustrated growl as I returned to my notes.